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Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Past chats with our guests.

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JackFavell
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby JackFavell » November 17th, 2013, 3:04 pm

Hi there, Ms. Rice, welcome to the SSO. We are so happy to have you visit us, and even more happy that you have written a biography of favorite classic film star Ann Dvorak! I've been a fan of hers for years.

I think the first Ann Dvorak film I saw was G-Men, which remains a favorite for me. Any info on how she got along with Jimmy Cagney? I think her rapport with Cagney is sublime. She's another great heroine of the underworld here. Did she enjoy this role? Or was she feeling typecast at this point?

I also find her performance in Heat Lightning to be really soulful and deep. I love the push/pull relationship she has with Aline MacMahon. Did these two actresses get along well? They couldn't be more perfectly cast as sisters.

We all know of Cagney's prison scene in White Heat, where he scrambles around like an animal on the tables and floors. Ann's scenes in Three on a Match are just as disturbing. Did Ann have any real life experience or observe drug addiction at some point? She acts the part with such fearless conviction and honesty that I think maybe she must have had some knowledge of addicts' behavior.

I like her longing so much. In most of Ann's films, there's an unfulfilled longing going on. Her acting, all the way up to The Secret of Convict Lake, is always arresting even when her role is small. She seems to have some kind of battle going on within her, two opposing forces at work inside. It makes my eye always go to her even in this film with many other actresses. Did she draw on her own experiences when acting? Did you know what her process was, as far as acting was concerned? Was she as complex as her roles seem to suggest?

In Bel Ami, she is matched so evenly with George Sanders. I can't imagine anyone else being strong enough or smart enough to play this part opposite him. How did she like working on this film? Was it difficult? Did she like the switch in roles to a more cold-blooded type?

Thanks so much, I hope I haven't asked too many questions without answers. :D I appreciate all the research you have done, and wonder whether you were able to interview any of the folks who knew her in her Hollywood days?

BTW, Your hairstyle for the Book Launch Party was terrific, I saw your lovely photo online.

Wendy

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 17th, 2013, 3:15 pm

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Thank you so much for these wonderful responses, Christina! We are so happy you are visiting. :D


My pleasure! Thank YOU for giving me an excuse to talk about my favorite subject.

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby moira finnie » November 17th, 2013, 3:59 pm

Image
Leslie Fenton in An American Tragedy (1927).

In your book it seems that Ann loved her first husband, actor and director Leslie Fenton very deeply, yet I detected a certain ambivalence about him in many of their contemporaries, (even though you wisely forego speculation). Do you think he exercised undue influence over her? Thanks.
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 17th, 2013, 4:39 pm

JackFavell wrote:Hi there, Ms. Rice, welcome to the SSO. We are so happy to have you visit us, and even more happy that you have written a biography of favorite classic film star Ann Dvorak! I've been a fan of hers for years.

I think the first Ann Dvorak film I saw was G-Men, which remains a favorite for me. Any info on how she got along with Jimmy Cagney? I think her rapport with Cagney is sublime. She's another great heroine of the underworld here. Did she enjoy this role? Or was she feeling typecast at this point?

I also find her performance in Heat Lightning to be really soulful and deep. I love the push/pull relationship she has with Aline MacMahon. Did these two actresses get along well? They couldn't be more perfectly cast as sisters.

We all know of Cagney's prison scene in White Heat, where he scrambles around like an animal on the tables and floors. Ann's scenes in Three on a Match are just as disturbing. Did Ann have any real life experience or observe drug addiction at some point? She acts the part with such fearless conviction and honesty that I think maybe she must have had some knowledge of addicts' behavior.

I like her longing so much. In most of Ann's films, there's an unfulfilled longing going on. Her acting, all the way up to The Secret of Convict Lake, is always arresting even when her role is small. She seems to have some kind of battle going on within her, two opposing forces at work inside. It makes my eye always go to her even in this film with many other actresses. Did she draw on her own experiences when acting? Did you know what her process was, as far as acting was concerned? Was she as complex as her roles seem to suggest?

In Bel Ami, she is matched so evenly with George Sanders. I can't imagine anyone else being strong enough or smart enough to play this part opposite him. How did she like working on this film? Was it difficult? Did she like the switch in roles to a more cold-blooded type?

Thanks so much, I hope I haven't asked too many questions without answers. :D I appreciate all the research you have done, and wonder whether you were able to interview any of the folks who knew her in her Hollywood days?

BTW, Your hairstyle for the Book Launch Party was terrific, I saw your lovely photo online.

Wendy


Aww, thanks for the compliment. I am very fortunate to be good friends with a couple of professional hair and make-up artists who came to my rescue for the book launch party. I certainly don't look like that everyday!

I didn't come across any direct references to how Ann and Cagney liked working with each other, but I think their chemistry onscreen is undeniable. I do think she enjoyed G MEN which was actually a more complex role and a bigger production than what she was usually cast in. Plus, she enjoyed the opportunity to sing and dance onscreen.

HEAT LIGHTNING and THREE ON A MATCH are two films that are talked about way more today than they were when they came out, so I don't know what Ann's opinion of the fabulous Aline MacMahon was. I agree they play beautifully off each other in HEAT LIGHTNING and SIDE STREETS. Even though Ann was raised in an urban setting and had show biz parents, I do get the impression that she was fairly sheltered as a youngster, so I would be surprised if she had any exposure to drug addicts prior to shooting THREE ON A MATCH. But yes, it is startlingly convincing performance.

I am not aware that Ann had a specific method to her acting, though those dramatic roles certainly benefitted from her intelligence and complexities as a person off screen. It's fair to say that she did draw from personal experience, though I think that influence is much more pronounced after she got back from her wartime duties in England. That inner pathos is very evident in many of those supporting roles in the late 1940s/early 50s. THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI was one of the first films she made after returning from the War and there is a maturity in that performance not seen in the 1930s. She did enjoy making that film and was anxious and determined to be in it. She even paid Republic $25,000 to free herself of a short-term contract in order to be able to appear in BEL AMI. Personally, that is one of my favorite Ann films and Sanders is at his caddish best.

Finding Ann's co-stars was particularly challenging. I spoke with Jane Wyatt, Virginia Mayo, Joan Leslie, and Hugh O'Brian who were all kind enough to speak with me though they honestly didn't have much to say, having only worked with her for a short time in relatively insignificant productions. Mary Carlisle gave me a wonderful chorus girl story involving Ann which is in the book. She was also good enough to come to the book launch party where she enchanted everyone.

Hope I answered all your questions!

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 17th, 2013, 4:45 pm

moirafinnie wrote:Image
Leslie Fenton in An American Tragedy (1927).

In your book it seems that Ann loved her first husband, actor and director Leslie Fenton very deeply, yet I detected a certain ambivalence about him in many of their contemporaries, (even though you wisely forego speculation). Do you think he exercised undue influence over her? Thanks.


Oh, there is no doubt that Leslie Fenton exercised an ENORMOUS amount of influence over Ann which arguably was detrimental to her career.

When I first started researching Ann, I despised Fenton and placed Ann's failed career squarely on his shoulders. And while I still acknowledge his role in Ann's troubles with Warner Bros., I did come to appreciate how much she loved him, and I softened on Leslie a great deal. When Laura Wagner of Classic Images read the book, she commented on how fair I was to Fenton, which I took as a major compliment because I wasn't sure how objective I could be when writing about him. Ultimately, I was very sorry that their marriage didn't last.

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby moira finnie » November 17th, 2013, 5:02 pm

Could you please discuss how WWII impacted Ann Dvorak's life and her career?

Would it be possible to discuss I Was an American Spy (1951),Ann's little-seen portrayal of a real life American heroine? I love her bravura performance in this low budget Monogram movie (without Dvorak, it would never have worked on any level) . BTW, this film is now on DVD via The Warner Archive.

One factoid that shocked me when I read your book: Ann was only 5'4" tall. I thought she was closer to 5'8"! Do you think her lanky silhouette was a result of her dance training or was she simply blessed with a natural elegance?

A few times, people working with Ann expressed concern about her extreme thinness. At Warner's, for instance, Hal Wallis asked that she not be photographed wearing short sleeve blouses, since her arms looked like little sticks. Do you think she was naturally slim?

Thanks!!
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 17th, 2013, 5:33 pm

moirafinnie wrote:Could you please discuss how WWII impacted Ann Dvorak's life and her career?

Would it be possible to discuss I Was an American Spy (1951),Ann's little-seen portrayal of a real life American heroine? I love her bravura performance in this low budget Monogram movie (without Dvorak, it would never have worked on any level) . BTW, this film is now on DVD via The Warner Archive.

One factoid that shocked me when I read your book: Ann was only 5'4" tall. I thought she was closer to 5'8"! Do you think her lanky silhouette was a result of her dance training or was she simply blessed with a natural elegance?

A few times, people working with Ann expressed concern about her extreme thinness. At Warner's, for instance, Hal Wallis asked that she not be photographed wearing short sleeve blouses, since her arms looked like little sticks. Do you think she was naturally slim?

Thanks!!


At the time Ann took off and followed the British-born Fenton to England after he enlisted in the Royal Navy, her freelance career was finally gaining some momentum with the three films she made at Columbia (BLIND ALLEY, CAFE HOSTESS, & GIRLS OF THE ROAD). Even though she made to features while she was in England, I think being away from Hollywood for three years set her career back. After she returned, she was given the lead in FLAME OF BARBARY COAST opposite John Wayne, but largely received smaller supporting roles. I think Ann experienced some post traumatic stress after returning to the States in 1943 and Ann and Leslie Fenton had difficulty resuming their pre-War lives and ultimately split.

I WAS AN AMERICAN SPY was Ann's personal favorite film and she formed a close bond with the Claire Phillips, the woman she was portraying on screen. For years this film was completely unavailable and when people contacted me through my website it was usually because they were looking for a copy. For those who saw it back when it was released in 1950, it really stuck with them. It's definitely a must-see Dvorak film because it's one of the few times she was required to carry a picture though it's a shame that it wasn't a higher budget production.

I do think Ann was naturally slim and was one of those people who just ate for sustenance (I have no idea what that's like). She rarely ate meat or sweets and consumed a lot of vegetables. However, in 1935 she did become painfully thin though I was not able to determine if this was caused by nerves or a medical condition. Whatever caused her to lose the weight weakened her enough that Warner Bros. put her on an indefinite suspension, leading her to file a lawsuit to get out of her contract with them.

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby kingrat » November 17th, 2013, 5:56 pm

Christina,

Thank you so much for chatting with us. Your book is on my wish-list for Christmas. Like you, I'm a big fan of The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, where Ann is most convincing as an intellectual and an excellent foil for George Sanders.

Two films which haven't been mentioned in previous posts are The Long Night, a film much loved by some of the posters here, and A Life of Her Own. Ann gives superb performances in both. Were you able to learn much about Ann's work in either of these films, what she thought about working with Henry Fonda in one and Lana Turner in the other? Ann must have drawn on some of her own feelings in playing the model who's not young and at the top any more.

Again, thank you for meeting with us and please return just to chat on any topic.

David

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 17th, 2013, 6:36 pm

kingrat wrote:Christina,

Thank you so much for chatting with us. Your book is on my wish-list for Christmas. Like you, I'm a big fan of The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, where Ann is most convincing as an intellectual and an excellent foil for George Sanders.

Two films which haven't been mentioned in previous posts are The Long Night, a film much loved by some of the posters here, and A Life of Her Own. Ann gives superb performances in both. Were you able to learn much about Ann's work in either of these films, what she thought about working with Henry Fonda in one and Lana Turner in the other? Ann must have drawn on some of her own feelings in playing the model who's not young and at the top any more.

Again, thank you for meeting with us and please return just to chat on any topic.

David


When I sat down to write about THE LONG NIGHT, I was really disappointed by how little I had found for that film, so unfortunately I have very little input into that one. Of course I am probably biased, but I think Ann's portrayal of a woman who cares deeply about Henry Fonda's character knowing full well that their relationship is temporary is very convincing.

Overall, A LIFE OF HER OWN did not turn out to be a particularly good film, so I did not come across too much discussion about it. As I recall, in Lana Turner's memoir she mainly relayed how she got an actor removed from the film for trash-talking her (my memory might have this totally wrong), and director George Cukor so despised the film that the only time he seemed to mentioned it was to say how bad it was. It's really a shame because I feel strongly that Ann's performance was Oscar-worthy and had the movie received more positive attention it might have given Ann an elevated level of recognition that could have given her career some extra longevity. I would imagine the character of Mary Ashlon would have resonated with Ann on a personal level at that point in her career.

feaito

Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby feaito » November 18th, 2013, 8:09 am

Christina,

First of all thanks for being here with us. Your book is on my Wish List, because Ann Dvorak (like Karen Morley) has been one of those actresses whom I have seen in many movies and who has grown on me over the years. In the case of Ann, besides her acting talent and magnetism on screen, the fact that I find her intriguing, beautiful, possesing an a-temporary beauty and elegance add even more to her appeal. Those big eyes (sigh); her angular features...she could have been an sculptor's obsession.

I was a Classic film addict since I was a small kid -under five years old- and the film that brought Ann Dvorak to my attention was "Our Very Own" (1950), which in Chile was titled "Vida de mi Vida" (Life of my Life). I have seen that film once (perhaps in the early '80s) and her performance lingered in my mind for years; for me, she completely stood out as Ann Blyth's biological mother (that's what I recall of the plot, after so many years).

Years later, I became familiar with her earlier performances, most notably as the tormented Cesca in "Scarface" (1932) in which she's riveting and more recently, thanks to TCM, with "Three on a Match" (1932) and the superb "Heat Lightning" (1934) of which I am a fan.

My question to you is what was the background of Ann getting the role of Ms. Blyth's biological mother in "Our Very Own" (1950); Did she like her role and the picture? Did she get good reviews for her performance? It's a little known movie of which I'd like to know more and hopefully see again in the near future to fully appreciate as and adult Ms. Dvorak's talent. Thanks.

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby movieman1957 » November 18th, 2013, 8:50 am

For someone who want to learn about her work what other films would you suggest?

Thanks again.
Chris

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Hibi » November 18th, 2013, 10:59 am

I am looking forward to your book as I dont know much about Ann, and do think she deserves more recognition. Regarding her battles with Warner Bros., was she blacklisted in Hollywood after she left Warners in the 30s for a time? Did that factor in with her move to England?

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby mongoII » November 18th, 2013, 12:17 pm

Hi Christina, and welcome to the Silver Screen Oasis. It's a pleasure having you here.
Along with Barbara Stanwyck, Ms. Dvorak is my favorite actress. Love those eyes and that voice.

Are there any truth to the rumors that Ms.Dvorak died sick and destitute in Hawaii?
What was her favorite film role?
Thanks much.
Joe aka Mongo
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Lzcutter » November 18th, 2013, 12:30 pm

Just wanted to let everyone know, we just received an email from Ms. Rice. She has some morning duties to complete first and then she will be here to continue the conversation!
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby CineMaven » November 18th, 2013, 12:35 pm

Hi there Ms. Rice. Welcome to the Oasis. Tackling a well-known actress' biography in a full and detailed way is quite an undertaking. But I'm wondering which is more daunting? Someone who is well-known like the recent bio on Stanwyck-who people think they know, or a person not quite as well known, such as Ms. Dvorak? Someone we think we know or someone we know very little about? I have been wonderfully "Dvorak'd" thanks to TCM and have enjoyed her performances in "Scarface" "G Men" "Heat Lightning" "Love Is A Racket" and especially: "Three On A Match." Her downfall in that movie is harrowing and still holds up. ( She & Lyle Talbot must have made every other film in the 30's! ) Do you have any idea if she had a favorite costar she enjoyed working with? Ann Dvorak is really one of those unsung gems of the 1930's who went about doing The Work and you are giving her her due which classic film fans definitely appreciate. Thank you for spotlighting her.
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